Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Music 101 with Dr. Dork : Originality

Songwriting is crucial for an original musician. However, when you stop to reflect on the last 50 years not to mention the last 500, it appears as if there is nothing new under the sun that one can do. At what point are we simply just regurgitating what we heard someone else do? I bring this up because I see it all around me and struggle with it myself when contributing to music that my bands write. The other day, I popped in a CD I hadn’t heard in a few years—Dream Theater’s ‘Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence’ and noticed that the drum intro on the track ‘The Test That Stumped Them All’ was very similar to something I had used as an intro fill for the L.i.E. song ‘Normal Rockswell’ – Of course, my part was in 7/8 while Portnoy was playing alternating 7/8 and 6/8 and he used the snare more … but who cares about the details, right? My idea stemmed from his ide so did I rip him off? At least I can honestly say it wasn’t done consciously.

But that’s just me, and I’m only one person… and that example is fairly innocuous. However, the other day, a friend recommended I check out this band. I did, only to find that the song to which he linked me essentially contained a carbon copy of parts lifted right out of Green Day’s ‘Basket Case’ and Blink 182’s ‘All The Small Things’ except with bad guitar tone. Granted, said band listed Green Day as a major influence, but I found it hard to believe this band could consider this to be their original music and not only make a music video to go with the song, but they’re also selling it online.

Where do you draw the line? Indeed, there are only so many chords and keys and time signatures available… and we can’t possibly know every phrase from every song ever written. In the age of the Internet, it seems more people have bands than have flown in airplanes. We have what seems to be an exponential rise in the amount of music available and with it, ever more things that are hard to distinguish from anything else you might run across. I try my best to listen to most of the bands that play live in Augusta if I have not heard of them because you never know when you’ll find something really interesting. However, it has long been past the point that I can tell with a modicum of certainty what a band sounds like just by looking at their photo… but now I’m almost to the point that I can guess the average number of single-note chugga-chugga breakdowns per song or whether the singer will sound like Scott Stapp or Aaron Lewis.

John Berret encourage me to put together a show featuring bands that I think exemplify well-crafted music that stands apart from what we might would call ‘run-of-the-mill.’ In doing so, my band mates in Artemia decided to go with a pair of bands that we all really found entertaining in their live show as well as just being extra creative in their artist endeavors. For all intents and purposes though, both bands are instrumental with vocals used sparingly. I thought about how that could be considered “odd,” but then again I always found it odd when others would tell me thought some band was awesome when I couldn’t even hear the vocals over the guitar hiss and distortion… so… why not? Sinister Moustache http://www.sinistermoustache.com/
and Kings of Prussia (asheville nc)http://myspace.com/kingsofprussia
are the two bands in question, and honestly… in 20 years of playing music and seeing bands, I’d put these guys up against anyone in the business and strongly suggest everyone listen to several songs from each group before deciding whether or not you’re ready to move on to the next thing. Both of these bands held my attention the entire time they were on stage the last time I saw each of them, and that is a rarity for most people no matter what. Like every other artist/band out there, these bands are also borrowing ideas, but it is how those ideas are executed that is the salient point here. Genre-crossing is another feature that keeps you on your toes…

The take-away message is pretty simple… originality may not earn you quick popularity as an artist, but at least you won’t end up like this (and I don’t mean very wealthy!!) -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qs4tNeGyTyI&feature=related

(You can see Kings of Prussia and Sinister Moustache at Sky City on Friday, October 8 at Sky City with Artemia and The Radar Cinema. You can also see Artemia at Sector 7G with L.i.E., Suns Collide, Roselyn, Rusty Shackleford and Nine Day Descent on Saturday, October 2. Feel free to criticize their songwriting.)

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